Quantock Hills Blog

Musical festival in the forest

- FC Ranger Andy Harris leads a nightjar walk in Great Wood

Nichola Penn

Posted by Nichola Penn on 01 July 2013

Musical festival in the forest The midges were biting intently as Owen and I met 12 guests for the nightjar walk last Saturday evening. Although the attention we received from these tiny little insects was unwelcomed and rather annoying, it meant the promise of finding hungry nightjars, as well as other insectivorous creatures whilst venturing into the forest on a balmy summers evening was hopeful.

After a short introduction on modern day forestry practices and how Great Wood is a truly multi-purpose / use forest we took a short walk to our heathland site.

The Nightjar is a truly unique bird that visits our forests and heathland having travelled 4,000 miles from central Africa to raise potentially two broods before flying back south in September.  The churring call of the male, wing clapping, peculiar flight, wacky behaviour and mythology around this species make it a captivating animal to watch.

At almost ten o’clock precisely the first churring call of a male Nightjar could be heard a few hundred metres away.  As we went to investigate a male flew past just a few yards way hunting for moths.  To be honest this was the best sight we had of a Nightjar but as the evening went on the air was filled with more churring males stating ownership of their territories.

Also making themselves heard were several Tawny Owls and with the aid of some technology we were able to listen into bats flying over our heads competing for the midges and moths. (Pipistrelle, our most common bat in the UK can eat around 3,000 midges a night - so we were glad of their company!)

Personally, I think the melody of Nightjars with the backing chorus of owls and bats was something to rival the Stones at Glastonbury below us on the levels, but maybe that’s just me.


Andy Harris is Forestry Commission Community Ranger for West Somerset and East Devon

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